One of my students wrote about his experience I thought it would be a great thing to share with you.

Do something amazing,

Tsahi Shemesh

Having your Back

It’s hard to believe it has already been 2 years since my mother passed away. The last 10 years of her life she suffered the ravages from Alzheimers and after my father died I had no choice but to place her at a home in the Upper West Side of NYC. I visited her at least 4 times a week until Covid came and then I was not allowed to visit any longer.

What I learned from the Nursing Home experience was just how incredibly vulnerable we will become when we’re much older both physically and mentally. My mom was entirely in the hands of strangers 24/7 but I think my constant visits ensured she was well taken care of and in that respect I have no complaints.

At the same time this sad but inevitable aspect of my life was going on, I was also training in Krav Maga with Krav Maga Experts which was not too far from the home my mother was in. It’s truly a mystery how these things happen in life because I didn’t plan it that way. When I placed my mom in the nursing home I was not even aware of KME.

I began training with Tsahi Shemesh, KME’s founder and chief instructor. Krav Maga was the opposite experience of the home because it was fast paced and aggressive; it’s about learning how to defend yourself from a potentially life threatening incident. Here I began to learn awareness and more about myself as well, what I am capable of, what my strengths are, what my weaknesses are and how to improve. I learned just how vulnerable people really are regardless of their size or muscle strength. Again, I go back to the subject of vulnerability. Vulnerability is not just in the nursing homes but everywhere and all of us can be vulnerable at any time.

‘Training in Krav Maga makes you more empowered and better able to deal with vulnerabilities. And you feel a sense of responsibility for those who truly can’t defend themselves. Those seniors I visited at the home couldn’t defend themselves, just like little children can’t either. But they’re not the only ones. Without any training you can’t expect most people to even be aware of their surroundings.’

One summer night leaving the nursing home, I started walking to the subway station to go home. I was aware of my surroundings as I walked and spotted what appeared to be a mentally ill homeless man who looked in his late 40s. His skin was dirty as was his hair. He was mumbling angrily about something when he started going after these 3 very young Jewish Orthodox girls. This Upper West Side neighborhood has a heavy Jewish presence with a Synagogue a block away from the nursing home. At first, I didn’t think much of it because unfortunately mentally ill homeless people are a very common part of the city surroundings. But what made this incident different was he began following the young girls, making aggressive gestures with his hands and cursing at them. The girls did realize this and started quickening their pace. As they walked faster so did the man. I made a very quick decision there and then that I would follow the homeless man and the girls just in case he tried to actually attack them in any way. I could see they were getting more nervous and scared. Even though I was already close to my subway stop and could’ve easily just gone into the station and forget about what was going on, I simply felt a sense of responsibility.

Why was I learning Krav Maga if I couldn’t use it when it actually mattered? Was I learning to look cool in Facebook and Instagram and pretend to be a “badass” when in fact I wasn’t? No, this was the time, here and now I thought.

‘There was a potential danger happening right in front of me and despite the fact others just walked by like nothing was happening, I was not that unaware New Yorker.’

I had no excuse because unlike the others I was trained and they were not. Training would not give me any special powers like a Marvel Comic hero; this was not about being a hero, and I wasn’t even as advanced in level as I am now, but it was simply about being a good human being and assisting 3 vulnerable young girls who were just walking on a summer night.

As it turned out, the 3 young Orthodox girls made it to what I assume was their apartment building. As they got closer they simply ran for it as a doorman opened the door. The doorman just stood in front of the door in case the man tried to get in. Then the man stopped, and I stopped not too far from him. I didn’t want to look suspicious to the doorman who had no idea what was going on, so I looked down at my iPhone, and when I saw the homeless man leave I made my way back to the subway station to go home.

Come to think about it, who knows what was going through the mind of that poor homeless man. How did he end up living in the streets? Maybe in his world he just wanted to make contact and would’ve never hurt those girls. Who knows. He too was vulnerable living in the streets. I took a detour that summer night years ago, but I felt good inside that at least I looked after 3 young vulnerable girls. And they never knew they had someone who had their backs that night.